Democracy is flawed, but self-correcting with an educated electorate. However, here in the United States, we have the stupidest possible form of democracy.
A candidate wins the popular vote for president by 2.8 million votes, but loses the election, as happened in 2016?
That’s just stupid.
A Senate where senators elected by 43% of the population can block legislation backed by senators representing 57% of the population?
An election in the most populous state, California, where if the governor is not supported more than half the people voting, a candidate backed by 30% of the voters could take his place?
Dumb. Extremely dumb.
A Supreme Court whose makeup is determined by who is president when its members randomly happen to die — or when a leader in the Senate feels like scheduling hearings? One president who gets two nominations in eight years, and another that gets three in just four years?
Pretty screwed up.
Election laws that either encourage or put obstacles in front of voters, based on whichever party happens to control the legislature in a state?
Makes no sense.
Legislative districts designed by computer to elect candidates from the party that controls a state legislature?
Two extremely flawed parties whose candidates we must pick from — with only the slimmest possible chance that candidates from outside those parties will ever win?
Three-year-long campaigns dominated by mob rallies and media concentrated on horse races and “gaffes?”
Who would design a system like that?
People who get their information from social media that amplifies the most extreme and inaccurate information that confirms what they already believe?
Yeah. That’s pretty stupid.
Democracy off the rails is still better than dictatorship
Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried.”
And he was working in a parliamentary system, which avoids many of the worst parts of American democracy.
These facts are indisputible:
- The party with fewer voters will use election rules and geography to maximize the power of those that represent its views.
- The party with more voters will try to make it as easy as possible for those voters to vote and to reduce the power of the minority.
When it comes to ordinary politics, compromise is still possible. That’s how the Senate passed Biden’s infrastructure bill, for example.
But when it comes to election rules, compromise is unattainable, because it is literally a zero-sum game. If I get more votes, that’s bad for you. If you get more votes, that’s bad for me. Pay no attention to posturing about “fairness” and “fraud” and the like — all electoral rules are a simple fight about making it easier for one party or the other to win an election.
It’s a terrible system. But at least it includes regular elections. Elections permit us to hear candidates’ views. They enable us have a say, even if our choices are limited. They enable us to correct mistakes we made in electing the wrong people.
By all means, let’s keep attempting to fix our flawed American democracy. Let’s elect people who make it more democratic, and cast out people who pass electoral rules whose only purpose it to make it easier to elect people more like them.
I won’t let up on my criticism of the stupidest possible implementation of democracy.
But I certainly prefer it to no democracy at all.